Meet Lucy Hargrove, founder and editor-in-chief of GrrlPunch magazine. She's also a former opera singer, ballerina and actress. But at heart, she's a 20-year-old Memphian, an employee at Memphis’ historic Arcade Restaurant and a supporter of pink tutus and glitter. As part of an ongoing series about Memphis women who started their own businesses, we met with Lucy to learn more about how and why she launched GrrlPunch magazine in 2015 and what she's learned as a young entrepreneur.
GrrlPunch is an online magazine that shares the raw, passionate voice of young writers. Given that the volunteer-only staff is made up of high school and college students, they are fueled by an authentic perspective and rather than an approach generated by editorial executives seeking to attract young readers.
The magazine has a monthly theme with previous ones being Pride, Dreams, Wonder, Rule Breakers and many more. Each author bases his or her article off of this theme accordingly and in doing so, brings their individual, creative voices together. But no article is complete without a great picture. In addition to sharing the voices of young authors, GrrlPunch also shows off beautiful artwork by talented young artists.
High Ground News: What would you say are the three hardest challenges you’ve faced since starting your own publication?
Hargrove: The first one would be the financial aspect because the only profit we make is from merchandise, but that goes right back into our bank account, so I don’t get paid; editors, authors, and artists don’t get paid; it’s volunteer basis. So, a lot of it is my personal money that I’ve had to learn to use in ways that would benefit the publication as a whole instead of maybe what I would want to put into the magazine in certain areas.
Another hard part of it is being taken seriously, unfortunately. I started [the magazine] junior year and so, we were never really taken seriously, and I feel like that really underrepresents the people who put a lot of time and effort into it. I’m doing this because what they have to say and show is important, so if no one actually pays attention or respects it, that can be very disheartening at times.
The third is probably working with really young people. The youngest person we’ve had was 14, and it’s wonderful, but the only hard part is probably the turnover of people working with the magazine. Life gets in the way and this is a volunteer-basis organization, so a lot of people have to leave after a while. It hurts and it is sad and makes me feel like I didn’t do something right to help them able to stay, but at the end of the day, we do make it quite simple. We have it down to a science now. You sign up for one article a month and are given a deadline. You’re not required to do too much more. I think it’s helped the turnover rate.
Although it’s hard to see people go, it’s wonderful when they start doing better things. GrrlPunch is always a stepping stone. It’s a trial and error experience and makes you consider whether or not you want to pick a certain major in this field.
HGN: What inspired you to create GrrlPunch as a high schooler?
Hargrove: I had always felt shut down at times. Growing up, I went to an all-female school for most of my life, yet I never really felt heard because they never preached that they wanted you to be heard, and that always made me feel like it wasn’t important. I kept a journal and would read my most recent entries and thought to myself that maybe someone else would understand what I was feeling. I didn’t know where else someone could hear such a raw, unedited voice. I was mainly inspired by the movie The Punk Singer. It made me feel bad almost that I hadn’t done anything like that and made me think about what if I started forcing people to listen to me. So, all of those reasons built up to just make me go for it and buy a website.
HGN: Can you pinpoint some particularly proud moments you experienced through your publication?
Hargrove: I have two favorite moments that go together. We participated in Memphis Zine Fest and we met this little girl and she just really liked our style — we always try to have the most fun booth because I want to attract people to it — I started giving her stuff from the booth, like stickers and a free zine. She was really into it and went up to her mom and asked to buy her a shirt. Our shirts, being for young adults, were gigantic on her, but she immediately put it on. It felt good seeing this little kid get so excited about this.
Two years later, this little person who’s just a little bit bigger came up to our booth and asked if I remembered her. I burst into tears. She was wearing a shirt that said “fearless” and told me she still reads our articles. We took another picture together with the same pose and she said she would keep reading and see us next year. Just seeing how much she cares was the best part of it all.
HGN: How did starting your publication in Memphis contribute to its growth and success?
Hargrove: I don’t think it would be where it is today if I were in a smaller town. I don’t think I would have even started it or seen that movie or remember that I matter even if I’m just one individual. Memphis is wonderful for creative growth. Although we may not be a Chicago or New York, there’s a lot going on here. Memphis is a big city that feels like a small town because you still are going to have a connection almost everywhere you go; that’s helpful for a small business, knowing that people are there to help. People just care here and that’s a really great thing.
HGN: How did expanding your writing staff beyond Memphis affect GrrlPunch?
Hargrove: It definitely became more difficult to communicate with people. We have a writer named Molly who lives in Wales. We’ve video chatted and texted but it’s crazy to think that I’ll probably never meet her. But expanding outside of Memphis made it feel more real. People growing up in different places looking at the same issues may have a completely different view.
HGN: What is some advice you could offer to other young women trying to start their own businesses?
Hargrove: Be financially smart. You can’t do much without funding, unfortunately. Follow your gut and sometimes your gut may be wrong, but that’s not the end of the world. You’re still going to have people who are loyal to you even if you can count them on one hand.
Also, when you need a break, you should take a break. If you need to take a few days, take a few days. On the topic of creative block, write down every thought or idea you have — it doesn’t have to be huge grandiose ideas every time. Unfortunately, people are going to hate you no matter what; they will find something wrong with everything you’re doing and it’s going to make you feel like absolute hot garbage.
If you let that break you down, you can’t run a small business. Lastly, find a person you can really rely on. Emily, the managing editor, always has my back and helps the publication in ways that I can’t.